Turning trash into art

2022-07-12 02:40:15 By : Mr. Kanglly Wong

THE environmentally-conscious duo behind Co2, also known as Karbon Dioksida, is Celine Tan and Oscar Lee. After meeting in university while studying for their architectural degree, they went on to become architects. Now, as freelancers, they find the time to do what they love, making art as Co2, from painting murals to making life-size animal sculptures.

Lee said: “When the pandemic hit, we started to do a lot of takeaways. In my family, there’s five of us, so you can only imagine how much plastic we accrued.” Since Lee’s family had a habit of cleaning the plastic containers after eating, he got the idea to turn the containers into art instead of just taking up space in their kitchen cabinet.

Their first sculpture made entirely out of used plastic containers was a model of the Marvel comic character Venom. “The alien antihero was considered a villain because of its toxic relationship with his host. Just like how plastic is something that made our lives easier, we made Venom to signify how the overconsumption of plastic was also a toxic relationship that harmed our environment.”

Shortly after that, Hutan Tutan came about. “Hutan Tutan” is a play on words from a Chinese idiom that signifies the animals under threat from deforestation.

Growing up with shows like Art Attack, Lee has always been an art lover and decided to collaborate with @little.wild.school to spread awareness about endangered species to primary school students in their home state Johor. “We wanted to let the kids learn about the endangered and extinct animals so that they have a connection with them and understand the severity of the situation,” explained Tan.

Along with online workshops to let the children learn about wildlife, the Hutan Tutan project also consists of an art and video competition element.

The duo are planning to make a total of 10 life-size animal sculptures made from used plastic containers which will be gifted to a total of 10 primary schools throughout the duration of the project.

The 10 endangered animals they have chosen to build for Hutan Tutan are the Malayan Tiger, the Malayan Tapir, the Borneon Orangutan, the Asian Elephant, the Proboscis Monkey, the Sumatran Rhinoceros, the Black Panther, the Siamang, and the Gaur.

SJK(C) Pu Nan in Bakri was the first school to win their life-sized Malayan Tapir sculpture.

For the second event, the theme was the Sumatran Rhinoceros which is extinct in Malaysia. The country’s last rhino, Iman, died of cancer in 2019 and the species is down to about 80 animals, all living in Indonesia.

In memory of the rhinos, Lee painted murals of the Sumatran rhinos for the runner-up school as a token of appreciation, and gifted the rhino sculpture to the winning school SJK (C) Chee Chuin in Sagil.

Instead of colouring the sculptures, they’ve decided to leave them transparent to show that one day, the animals will be gone if we don’t take action.

In the future, Lee and Tan are hoping to compile and exhibit all their upcycled plastic sculptures that they’ve created in their quaint single-storey terrace art studio in Muar.

Besides using plastic containers, they’ve also done a wall sculpture made with Tetra Paks and a batik-themed art piece made from plastic caps.

Besides being a lover of art, Lee is also a nature lover who loves to garden and landscape.

With his architecture background, his passion for sustainability came naturally and one of his biggest inspirations is a Taiwanese architect named Arthur Huang, who started his own construction company dedicated to upcycling consumer trash and industrial waste into construction material.

Art fans in KL can also see the couple’s other creation, a 3.5 metre sculpture titled The Last Pride of Tiger, which will be up in The LINC until the end of July.

Tel: +603-7784 6688      Fax: +603-7785 2624 / +603-7785 2625